Premier League preview: Norwich City v Manchester City
An already tricky away trip to Norwich City on Saturday looks even tougher for Manchester City now, after their upset loss at Sunderland.
Roberto Mancini's team were surprisingly beaten at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day, their third consecutive 1-0 loss away to Sunderland in the past three seasons.
With title rivals Manchester United snatching a dramatic 4-3 win at home to Newcastle, Sir Alex Ferguson's men now lead City by seven points at the top of the English Premier League table, placing greater importance on the outcome of the champions' visit to Carrow Road.
For Norwich, the arrival of the title-holders is set to be a second major examination in front of their own fans in the space of three days after a home match against Chelsea on Wednesday.
That game ended in a 1-0 defeat for Chris Hughton's men, a goal from Juan Mata settling the contest in Chelsea's favour.
Defeat left Norwich 11th on the table, a more than respectable situation midway through what is Hughton's first season in charge since succeeding Paul Lambert as manager in June.
Mancini's biggest concern going into the game will surely be a lack of goals from his expensively assembled front line.
The likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and David Silva have all failed to fire in their past two outings, with City held goalless at Sunderland and forced to rely on a late Gareth Barry effort to beat lowly Reading 1-0 on December 22.
City hammered Norwich 6-1 during the corresponding fixture in April, Tevez netting a hat-trick in his second league start following his return from self-imposed exile.
But the visitors are unlikely to have such an easy time of it this time around - Norwich have lost just twice at Carrow Road this season, conceding only nine goals in their nine home games to date.
With John Ruddy sidelined due to a thigh injury, Hughton has had to make do without his first-choice goalkeeper in recent weeks, and Mark Bunn will continue to deputise between the posts.
Defender Steven Whittaker and midfielder Andrew Surman are due to return from hip and knee problems respectively.
For City, fullbacks Gael Clichy (knock) and Aleksandar Kolarov (leg) and midfielder Samir Nasri (groin) are all doubtful.
Defender Micah Richards (knee) and holding player Jack Rodwell (hamstring) are long-term absentees and will not feature.